Innovative. Interdisciplinary. Impactful.
The Human Generosity Project
A large focus of our lab is studying cooperation in humans, focusing especially on helping behavior that occurs in times of need. We study food sharing, resource transfers, shared work and other forms of cooperation using diverse methods including human laboratory experiments, anthropological fieldwork and computational modeling. We also apply these principles to practical problems including resource management and disaster recovery. Learn more about these studies and more on The Human Generosity Project webpage.
Cancer and Multicellular Cooperation
Multicellular bodies are essentially societies of cells that must cooperate and coordinate to contribute most effectively to the fitness of the organism. Cancer represents a breakdown of this multicellular cooperation. In our lab we examine cancer through this lens using computational modeling and clinical collaborations. Our work on this topic was recently covered in The New York Times article Cellular 'Cheaters' Give Rise to Cancer.
Cooperation and Conflict
In addition to studying human sharing and cancer, our lab studies a variety of other systems that are governed by fundamental tensions between cooperation and conflict. This includes maternal-fetal conflict in microchimerism, a topic covered in a recent New York Times article A Pregnancy Souvenir: Cells That are Not Your Own based on our review paper.
Microbiome & Behavior
The human body is not a singular entity or even a single species: rather, it is a collection of genetically distinct organisms, with distinct fitness interests. Within the gut, microbes have access to chemical triggers of human eating behavior. We are exploring the possibility that and the microbiome plays a role in unhealthy eating behavior, covered in The New York Times article Our Microbiome May Be Looking Out for Itself.
Fermented foods are a type of microscopic ecosystem cultivated by humans for thousands of years. Kombucha is a popular drink made by the fermentation of tea by symbiotic bacteria and yeast. We see fermented foods like Kombucha as an easy, accessible model for testing ideas about cooperation. We are using this beverage as a unique system for exploring microbial resource exchange and to determine whether the symbiosis is able to fight off pathogens that single species of microbes cannot. Read more about Kombucha in our BLOG!